Have you heard the expressions ‘You are as old as you feel’ or ‘age is just a number’ which suggest that it is one’s fitness levels, happiness, energy and vitality that determines one’s age rather than the birthdays that come around each year? Do we tend to adhere to these expressions or do we view them as stuff and nonsense, as whimsical thinking? The reason this is important is it seems that the society we live in can affect our attitudes to old age which in turn can affect our health.
Did you know that the value and respect accorded to aged people in a society affects how we feel about ourselves? If a person lives in a society where old age carries connotations of wisdom and people are treated with more respect as they age, then they are much more likely to not only feel more positive but to have better health. According to this research, those living in societies where older people have a lower status were affected by this treatment and opinion to the extent that it affected their own perception of their health. They saw themselves as experiencing ill health because of their age. They saw getting older as a negative and this affected their health.
I can see how this attitude would affect people’s attitude to old age, they might dread each birthday, seeing old age as bringing nothing but trouble. If getting older is seen as a negative, as a downward spiral to ill health and the grave, it would encourage people to blame temporary illnesses or setbacks as due to old age. However, I do think that in Ireland, many view it as something to be enjoyed, as a part of life, as enjoying the fruits of your labour and enjoying every moment of retirement. Some research suggests that those in their 70s and 80s are more relaxed and happier than at any other time in their life.
How is old age perceived here in Ireland, in your opinion? Do people’s attitudes affect our ageing process? Do you think people are seen as ‘past it’ because of their age or their intelligence is called into question because their speech might be slower or less strong in tone than it used to be? Or do you think we respect older people sufficiently? If people’s health is being affected because of the general attitude in society, then things really need to change.
We know that there are things we can’t do as we get older but does that mean that is a negative? For many of us, we aren’t as flexible as we used to be, we don’t have the same stamina, we need more sleep – but there are plenty of things we can achieve based on general fitness and experience. We may not be able to run a marathon but we might walk a mini marathon. Not all of us will be able to climb a mountain at 80 but we can attain new achievements – whether it is writing a first book, playing golf on a weekly basis, looking after grandchildren, learning how to make a patchwork quilt or winning prizes with home grown vegetables. Just as all things vintage and retro are now being celebrated, I hope this applies to humans too! Do you think so?
photo credit: peregrine blue via photopincc